Monday, March 25, 2013

Scorpion in the sink

Querido familia,                                  25 de Marzo 2013

The other night I was brushing my teeth when I came across a small scorpion in the sink.

The work here in Curuzú certainly has been quite different from that of the work we did in Reconquista, which is an interesting thought considering that the work is the same and that it is just the location that has changed. In Reconquista, the area in which we worked was more of a rural area and there were always people sitting outside their houses and having conversations which made it really easy to walk up to a group of people and just start talking with them about whatever and then transitioning to the Gospel. However, here in the city of Curuzú Cuatiá the people are living a bigger city lifestyle. People pass their time at work and inside their homes, which means that we have to approach people from the other side of their door and the problem with that is that it makes it very easy for someone to say, "I'm busy right now," before closing the door and returning to their activity that couldn't be postponed fifteen minutes to hear a message about Christ.

A few days ago, on Saturday, I was reading  in Doctrine and Covenants chapters four through seven. During this time, Oliver desires spiritual confirmations and answers to his questions as well as a some other divinely appointed gifts. It was in chapter six, verses fourteen through seventeen that I came across a part that more or less said that, you have been guided by the Spirit and then the Lord tells him that, "if it had not been so, thou wouldst not have  come to the place where thou art at this time." I thought that was cool to read that considering the week we've have been having and the contrast to the "success" of Reconquista compared to what we accomplish here in Curuzú, so that was a good experience and I wrote that verse in my planner to be able to see the verse.

So the work here is slow and requires patience; especially because we know that we could see a whole lot of success if the members would just do their part to share the Gospel with their friends and family. This week passed us by especially slow as far as teaching was concerned because of the unfavourable weather conditions. On Monday night it began to rain and didn't stop until somewhere between Tuesday and Wednesday during the night. In addition to the adverse weather conditions, Elder Humphries has also felt a little under the weather himself, which has confined us to the apartment a couple of times. He has used some of the oils to aid his ailments, but sleep is the most common remedy.

On Wednesday, we had a meeting with the Elders from our zone, which includes the cities of Paso de Los Libres and Mercedes. At the end of our meeting, we always practice some aspect of teaching in order to improve and become better. So, the topic that we had for our practice that day was that we had to try to understand and uncover the reason that a person wouldn't want to be baptized. During one of our practices, the Elder who was acting as the person that we were teaching had an interesting doubt about baptism. He said that he wasn't sure if he could make a promise to follow Christ when he had killed his father-in-law just four weeks ago. When he said that I started to laugh because it was so ridiculous and the Elder playing the investigator was trying really hard not to laugh, but all he could say was, "See, this is why I didn't want to tell you; people always react like that when I say it." 

Every Friday night we  have an activity for the whole branch where one person is assigned to present whatever they desire and everyone is asked to bring food to share. Well this last Friday no one was assigned to give the message, so I made a jeopardy game for everyone. We had three topics, "Who Was It?," "Finish the Verse," and "Our Dispensation." So we divided everyone into two teams as evenly as we could. I had intentionally made the questions easy because I wasn't sure how much this branch would know about the Church's history or the scriptures. They did pretty well however. It was funny to watch though because it was mostly the branch president getting all the answers on his team and the seminary teacher giving all the answers on her team. The seminary teacher, Sister Acosta, was really funny because she always had a excuse when she didn't get an answer right. One time she said that she didn't know the answer because she couldn't understand my Spanish and one time when the president got a question she didn't know she said, "Well, now we all know that President reads his scriptures." It all made for an interesting night. After the game we had an asado because it was the birthday of one of the soon-to-be members, Sylvana Dominguez. 

Right now, we are working with two girls to get them baptized. Their mom is a member and their step-dad is a member as of a month ago. The problem, however, is that their oldest sister is telling them that they have to follow the example of their dad, who is supposedly 'very catholic', and that they can't follow any kind of example set by their step-dad. The girl causing all the trouble is only sixteen too, but obviously we're trying to avoid her and teach when we can be with the other two girls, who are fifteen and twelve.

Well right now our zone leaders have come up with a somewhat crazy plan in order to just get them baptized (they've already been taught and been to church and just need to get in the water). They want us to set up a meeting with them in the chapel, bring the baptismal clothes, and prepare the font (which is actually a portable swimming pool). From there, they, the zone leaders, will come and be in the chapel with us and give them their baptismal interview and then tell them that the font is already ready and that we have clothes for them so they can be baptized in that very moment.

I think it seems kind of ridiculous and very likely won't work and to top things off they told us that they are coming to Curuzú tomorrow, leaving us with today and tomorrow morning to prepare and execute this very interesting and peculiar plan. So we're about to have an interesting two days.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Argentine Pope

Querido familia,                          18 de Marzo 2013

Early on in the week, we had planned to have some exchanges for a couple of days with me going to the city of Mercedes to work with Elder Paredes, but we had some troubles that changed our plans. Elder Paredes and his companion, Elder Rivera, came to Curuzú for a district meeting we had and from there our plan was to go to the bus station afterwards. However, when we got there, the lady selling the tickets was working very slowly and leaving her work station while there were still seven more people in line waiting to be helped. So, the bus showed up (the last one of the day) and there were still five people that didn't have tickets. The bus driver came over and talked to the girl and then he left and pulled out of the station five minutes later, just as she was handing me my ticket. Well, everyone that was waiting was a little upset to say the least and all she said was that she doesn't have any of the blame for what happened. So, Elder Paredes and I walked around the city visiting some people.

I feel bad for his companion though because Elder Paredes just is not a good missionary. He basically condemns everyone we talk to and tells them that they aren't going to heaven. I'm just glad, and so is Elder Humphries, that we didn't visit with any of the people we were already working with; although he did offend one of the less active families that we visited, so that doesn't really help anyone. The problem is that he thinks that he is a great missionary and that everyone else is the problem.

So the next day, Elder Rivera and I stayed in Curuzú and Elder Humphries went with Elder Paredes to Mercedes because Elder Humphries had to go there anyway in order to do an interview. I was just glad I only had to spend half a day with Elder Paredes instead of two. 

Well that night that Elder Rivera and I were together, we were walking in down the road on the way back to the apartment and then a bunch of cars started coming down the road honking their horns. The first car that passed someone yelled out the window, "La papa!" Which means potato. So we weren't sure what was going or if that person was trying to sell french fries or something. Then a few more cars went by us, honking their horns and waving those tiny plastic flags you have at parades (only the were Argentine, not American). So we asked some people on the sidewalk what was going on and they told us that the new pope, Francisco the First, is from Argentina. So the person who yelled out the window made more sense because "el papa" means pope. A subtle, yet very important difference in grammar and meaning.

There was a little worry that perhaps this would effect the work and make it more difficult, but as of yet we haven't had any problems with it. That night that Elder Rivera and I learned about the new pope, Elder Humphries and Paredes had someone open their door only to yell that the new pope is Argentine before slamming it shut again.  So it will be interesting to see how much of an effect this will have on the work.

The family who just got married, but after their baptism, has a few kids who are progressing towards baptism now. One of them is Alysia, who is twelve. In order to help her get to church on Sunday, I asked her if I could see her cell phone and while I was "just looking at it" I set an alarm for eight with a note that said, "It´s time to go to church." Luckily she didn't need it, because her mom got her up and they got ready and came anyway. So we could actually see a baptism this week with her if she feels ready since she has already been to church three times.

There is the couple where the wife, Sylvana, wants to get baptized, but she can't because she is living with her boyfriend and they can't get married because he is still married to his ex-wife. So some other Elders had an idea that might work to get her baptism taken care of sooner rather than later and the idea was that we could build a small house where he could sleep at night and then she could be baptized without waiting for the divorce papers and then marriage papers to go through. So we shared this idea with the two of them and they both laughed and Sylvana was kind of like, "Yeah, we could do that," with kind of a nudge and a wink in her tone. He thought it was funny, but didn't consider it; or at least didn't take it seriously enough to ponder the idea. So right now we're looking at the end of April for the soonest that she can be baptized. 

That's really all for this week. We didn't get into a whole lot of houses, but we are seeing progress with a few other people, so that's always good.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mission Conference in Mercedes

Querido familia,              11 de Marzo 2013
Getting a ride in Paso de los Libres
 Last Tuesday we had a conference for the entire mission that started at ten in the morning. For us, that meant that we had to travel Monday night to another city called Mercedes at stay with the missionaries there for the night in order to get to the conference on time the next day. So, we left from Curuzú at five and got to Mercedes at seven thirty. When we got there, Elder Humphries and I ended up splitting up and going with one of the Elders that are living there so that they could get twice as much work done that night in their area. Well it just so happens that the Elder that I worked with that night is Elder Rivera from Lima, Peru and as luck would have it he was none other than Justin's roommate in the MTC in Peru.
Elder Farnbach, Elder Clark and Elder Burt
So for this mission conference, we had to leave at three in the morning to take a six hour bus ride to Resistencia, but we had a really good time there. Sister Heyman spoke to us and told her experience about her stroke and the recovery process that took place afterwards. Once the mission had heard about her accident, there was a mission wide fast for her and she said that she could feel the power and influence of everyone's prayers and fasts supporting her during her rehabilitation. It really is a miracle that in less than three months she had a stroke, spent time in a rehab clinic in Buenos Aires, went to the United States for further rehabilitation, and then returned to Argentina as if nothing had happened.

President Heyman spoke to us about King David and his story. He mostly put an emphasis on the things that David did in order to gain favor in the sight of the Lord and how he was prepared to be the great king and spiritual man that he was. He then talked about his achievements and things he accomplished than no other king had done. He also spoke about the downfall of King David and the things he did that lead up to that. It was interesting because it all started with just small things that he had done, like not being where he was supposed to be or being somewhere at the wrong time and not removing himself from bad situations until he eventually committed two of the three most grave sins and lost his exaltation.

After the conference, we had a couple hours to eat lunch, which included a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chocolate chip cookies made by Sister Heyman, and talk with the other elders from the mission. I was able to talk with Elder Schumacher for the first time since September, so that was fun to trade stories about what has been happening and then to speak only in Spanish with each other, something that we've never done in our time together, but after five months in the country it is something that we can do with ease.

Elder Schumacher, Elder Clark, Elder Burt and Elder Waldron
On Wednesday and Tuesday, we had exchanges with the Elders in Paso de Los Libres, so I spent those two days there with Elder Diaz, who is from Salta, Argentina. It was interesting to have a latino companion for the first time, even if it was only for two days. I had been wondering how I would be able to do with a native Spanish speaker for a companion just because of the language, but I didn't have any problems speaking with him. Elder Humphries and I speak only in Spanish all day as it is and if there is a word I want to use or hear that I don't already know, I carry a small notebook in my shirt pocket to write down the words and find them later in the dictionary. During my time with Elder Diaz, we talked a little bit about music and he wanted to know what some songs meant that he listened to in English and wanted to know if I knew the songs from Argentina, so I sang "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" in Spanish and he just laughed and asked how I knew that song. I don't think he knew that that movie is from the States and that Madonna doesn't speak Spanish.

On Friday morning, we had a wedding for one of Elder Humphries recent converts. They had an interesting experience because Estela, the lady who got baptized, wasn't actually married to her husband by the law when she got baptized, so they kind of went through the process a little bit backwards, but they got it all worked out.

Later that night, we were talking with President Benitez, the president of the branch, and Elder Humphries was telling him a story about how his ex-girlfriend got married. During his story, President Benitez said to Elder Humphries, "entonces, no es manzana? (so she isn't an apple then?)" We both had no idea what he was talking about, but it made sense when he finished by saying, "porque no es pera. (because she isn't a pear.)" It's a joke because "no es pera" means that "she isn't a pear" and "no espera" means that "she doesn't wait." I thought it was hilarious, but Elder Humphries didn't like it as much.

So every branch and ward has their members who are just a little bit crazy, but there are two here (and when you only have ten active members that's a big percent of crazy). This lady named Irma is having some issues with another member named Brother Gomez. What happened is that Irma and another sister made empanadas to sell and so Brother Gomez bought a dozen of them. However, they weren't cooked all the way through. Well, instead of just not saying anything, he not only took the effort to tell Irma that they weren't cooked all the way through, but he told that daughter or the other sister to, "tell your mom that the empanadas that she made weren't cooked all the way through," and then he told the other sister himself. So for now, Brother Gomez has a few less friend in the branch.

Sister Irma has a bit of a crazy situation right now though because she is taking care of three kids from one of the other sisters in the branch because she went to Corrientes to visit her daughter. Well the thing is that Irma hasn't had contact with her and it has been nine or ten days since she left. Elder Humphries is starting to think that perhaps the sister who left to Corrientes abandoned her kids with Irma. We're trying to help her, but she doesn't want anyone to know what's going on and asked us not to tell the other members, especially the branch president. We'll just have to keep pestering her until she agrees to let the church help her or we'll just have to get the branch involved without her permission.

Other than what's been going, the weather here is starting to cool down a bit; it may just be that I'm in a cooler part of Argentina now. Because there is no day light savings time here, the sun goes down at around eight-thirty every night and is high in the sky by seven in the morning, but it has been that way since September when I got to Argentina.

os amo,
Elder Burt

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Photos

Goodies Galore! Birthday and Christmas presents came just in time for March!

Some Ninja Missionaries!

Some good looking initials!

Off a side road that leads to a camping area in Reconquista

Monday, March 4, 2013

Transfer to Curuzu

Our almost last supper together in Reconquista
Querido familia,                         4 de Marzo 2013

My last days in Reconquista earlier this week were interesting because normally the missionaries aren't supposed to know if they are going to be transferred until the night of the morning before it actually happens, but we were in a situation where we knew a couple days in advance. So we ended up spending a lot of time with the senior missionaries, preparing them to take over the branch and showing them how to run things, and also talking with the sister missionaries and telling them about the people that we were teaching so that they could pass by them and continue their lessons.

We had everything packed Tuesday night because we had to leave at five in the morning on Wednesday in order to take a taxi to the bus station. The bus that I took left at six in the morning from Reconquista and it was a five hour ride in order to arrive in Corrientes. From there, I was greeted by one of the leaders of the area who was spending his day in the bus terminal helping all the traveling Elders get to their destinations.

In Corrientes I had a four hour layover, which is a lot worse in a bus terminal in Argentina than a layover in the airport because in the bus terminal there a tons of people that are always trying to sell you something. And the thing is, people focus on us as missionaries because they look at us and see that we're wearing shirts and ties and they assume that we have money to burn. Even if we had a bunch of cash, we don't want to buy from the guy who is carrying a bunch of old, cold sandwiches around in a greasy cardboard box.

Well, after the layover I had a another four hour bus ride to get to a city called Paso de Los Libres. When I got there, there wasn't anyone waiting for me, so I just assumed that I had arrived first. However, an hour passed by and still nobody came. I thought that maybe it had been possible that I somehow went to the wrong city or maybe got off the bus too soon (because they don't announce anything when they make their stops). The only thing that made me think that I was in fact in the right place was that there was a twelve or thirteen year old boy dressed in a shirt and tie that came up to me and asked me where the other Elder was. I told him that I came by myself and haven´t seen anyone. Then, this boy walked around a corner and I never saw him again.

After just over an hour of waiting, three Elders came: Elders Taylor, Diaz, and Humphries (my new companion). Elder Humphries and I work in a city called Curuzú Cuatiá and so we had to take another bus ride in order to get to our city, but there wasn't going to be one until morning. So, we went out to visit some people with Elder Taylor and then when the night came we stayed with him and his companion in their apartment. In the morning, we had to leave from the bus terminal six thirty and didn't arrive in Curuzù until nine thirty.

We spent some time in the morning unpacking, and getting ready for the day and then late in the afternoon we went out to meet some of the members as well as some of the investigators that Elder Humphries and his previous companion had been teaching. There's a lot of people that we've only visited once or twice, so I'm still trying to learn who is who.

The Church isn't very big here, so there isn't a chapel, but rather the Church owns a house that has been adapted to service the church meetings. Although there aren't many, the members are all really great here.

One of the recent converts to the branch invited us over on Saturday night to eat home made pizza that was really good. The same member then made empanadas for us just last night.

I recently finished the Book of Mormon, but when I read through it this time I started in Jacob and then ended with First and Second Nephi. It was really interesting just to start it that way and then come back and see how it all began and why things turned out the way they did.

I don't really feel like there is a whole lot to tell this week just because I spent most of the week traveling or in meetings, but this week we'll be traveling to Resistencia for a mission conference and once I start to get familiar with the people and the area I'll have stories to tell. But for now I'm out of time.

os amo,
Elder Burt